This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood, released by Hanging Loose Press in 2019.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a text that’s also haunted by the maternal. In her introduction Shelley calls the book her “hideous progeny,” and Victor Frankenstein speaks of creating his creature as a mother might speak of giving birth to a child. As I got older, I marveled that Shelley and John Polidori—who wrote The Vampyre, which influenced Bram Stoker’s Dracula—birthed with their pens our two most famous monsters in the summer of 1816 when Lord Byron challenged them to write a ghost story. Shelley had lost her own mother, the women’s rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft, ten days after birth.
A year before Byron’s ghost story challenge, Shelley had lost her infant daughter, and at the time of Byron’s challenge, she was caring for her five-month-old baby boy. Shelley had been both the child who lost the mother and the mother who lost the child, so in Frankenstein we see both perspectives: that of the abandoned creation and that of the abandoning creator, who only pursues the creation in the end to destroy it.
When I was a child, my mother told me something that was morbid but also incredibly comforting: she said whenever I was away from her, even after she died, I could look at the moon, and she’d be in there, looking back at me. I thought about this on night car rides as that rock-ribbed, indefatigable moon, its own kind of monster, stalked us always. I thought, too, of the Frankenstein creature pursued by his male mother to the ends of the earth.